In May of 1996 the Harwood Heights E 9-1-1 system was activated after a year long preparation, installation and testing phase. This new state of the art technology will now provide all within the Village with the best and most efficient way to report emergency situations.
- How 911 Works
- When To Use 911
- How To Use 911
- In The Event Of A Fire
- If Someone Is Breaking In
- Cellular (Wireless) 9-1-1
- Number of 9-1-1 Calls
- 9-1-1 Related Web Sites
Before I go on with just when you should use 9-1-1 let me first take a moment to explain how it works. During the planning stage each house, apartment building, and business was plotted on a map. This map defined the borders of the Village and this information was put into a computer. Each phone that was within the borders of the Village then became part of that computer database. Each time you would dial 9-1-1 the call would automatically search this database of information and route it to our Police Station and display the name, address, and phone number of the person who that phone is registered to. It will also include the apartment number, the floor the phone is on if it is a business and even whether or not it is a pay phone. With this information on our 9-1-1 screen we will know exactly where the call originated from. This becomes very important in the event you get disconnect. Once the call is made and the database locates the information the information will be locked on our screen. So, if you were to dial 9-1-1 and you were to pass out or someone hung up or even ripped the phone out of the wall we would know where to send our officers to assist you.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about 9-1-1 is when to use it. It is not meant to be used to contact the police department about routine matters. If you dial 911 for a non emergency matter you are tying up resources that could be needed in a real emergency. It is solely used to report EMERGENCIES.
What Is An Emergency?
An emergency is when IMMEDIATE Police, Fire Department, or Paramedic Assistance is necessary to protect life or property.
To give you a better idea of when to use 9-1-1 here some examples:
- To report a fire
- To stop a crime
- To save a life
DON'T call 9-1-1
- The crime has occurred and the offenders are no longer on the scene
- To report minor motor vehicle accidents
- To obtain information from the police department
- To speak with an officer
- Non emergency situations
As you can see 9-1-1 is to report emergencies only. For reporting non emergencies call 867-4343. If you need to speak with an officer or need basic information call 867-4353.
When Calling 911 Do The Following
- Give the location of the emergency trying to be as specific as possible
- Specify the kind of emergency
- If it is crime related was a weapon implied, seen or used
- The number of persons involved along with a description of people, vehicles including license plate information and any direction of travel
- Keep your information factual. Do not exaggerate the situation thinking the officers will arrive quicker. This could cause the death or injury of another person who really needed the emergency before you did. High speed responses are dangerous to the officers, other motorists and pedestrians. In Illinois it is also a crime to give the police or emergency services false information.
- Follow the instructions given to you. The dispatcher may want to get more information to pass on to the responding officers. Do not hang up until the dispatcher has all the necessary information, or your life is in danger. If you feel threatened or in danger leave by the safest and quickest route.
Dialed In Error and Hang Up Calls
One of the biggest problems that we deal with are Dialed In Error and Hang Up 911 calls. Each month we receive over 150 calls that were either dialed in error or where the caller realized they dialed wrong and hung up the phone. With each of these we must determine whether or not the call was made by accident or if a real emergency exists and to do this we must send an officer to the caller's location to make the determination. This takes our officers away from the real emergencies. This is especially a problem with cellular calls where the phones have a one button 911 feature. Many times this feature is pressed by accident while in a purse or pocket. Each owner of a cellular phone must take the time to understand the phone's features and take the steps necessary to prevent these types of accidental calls from being made. One way to stop these types of calls is to lock your keypad or disable the one button 911 feature.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are in working order. Test them on a regular basis
- Prepare an escape plan and regularly go over it with your family members
- DON'T PANIC Act calmly and swiftly to avoid harm
- Fire travels very quickly so get out immediately by the safest route and once out stay out
- Do not stop to gather your valuables or other things
- Once safely outside call 911 immediately. If there may still be someone inside let the 911 operator know their probable location in the building
- If you are trapped in a fire get as far away from the fire as possible and close all doors between you and the fire. Dial 911 and give the exact location of the fire and what part of the house you or any occupants are located. If no phone is available yell and scream out of a window to attract attention so they can call 911
- Seal the openings at the bottom of doors with rugs, towels, clothing or anything to keep the smoke from entering.
- If you are in a smoke filled room try to cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth and move along the floor as low as possible
- Do not confront the criminal or attract any attention to your presence in your dwelling if at all possible
- If you can safely do so, quickly secure yourself by locking the door behind you and then immediately dial 911. Advise them of your location in the building and that someone is breaking in. Also give the location of the offender in the building.
- Stay on the line with the 911 operator until told to hang up or for your own safety you must leave the building.
Because of their mobility, cellular phones pose an interesting problem with 911. As you should remember, regular enhanced 911 will give us your exact location because the phone is stationary and is located within our Village. Because cellular phones can travel from one location to another the basic idea behind 911 no longer works in the same manner. It must depend on what is called "Wireless 911."
How Wireless 9-1-1 Works
As mentioned earlier regular 9-1-1 works rather simply. Each jurisdiction submits their boundaries to representatives of the local telephone carrier. Each wireline phone number located within those boundaries are put into a database. When someone calls 9-1-1 from one of those phones the computers recognize which city the call is made from and goes into that database, retrieves the caller's information and sends it to that city's Communication Center. However, wireless 9-1-1 cannot work in this manner because the cellular telephone can come from any state or even a foreign country, so there is no set database that can be checked for the owners information. The question then comes up; How do we know who is calling 9-1-1 from a cellular phone and what is their location?
Receiving a wireless 9-1-1 call depends on basically three separate items that must work together. First, there must be a cell tower to pick up the callers signal. Second, the signal must be sent to the proper Communication Center, and finally, that Communication Center must have the technology to receive the information. Let's take these one at a time.
Each Cellular carrier puts up cell towers in different locations within the area where they offer service. In most cases these towers have three "faces." Each face covers an area that spreads out to a total of about 120 degrees. Once a community requests wireless 9-1-1 service the cellular company will let them know the location of their cell towers. The community's 9-1-1 Coordinator looks at the location of the cell tower on a map and checks the area covered by each of the cell faces. The coordinator will decide which face or faces of the tower covers the largest portion of their community. Remember that these cell faces cannot tell the difference between one community and another they simply cut the air space into sections and can extend for several miles. So, the coordinator will "accept" those cell faces that will serve their community the best. Now lets say that a cell face covers 20% of their community and 80% of the neighboring community. It would not be prudent to accept that cell face so they will work with the neighboring community and have them accept that cell face with the understanding that if they receive a call which originates from the other community that they will transfer the call to them. Once the coordinator accepts the cell faces from each cellular provider certain technical information is put into the computer which says that if a call is received from this face of the tower it will be routed to the community who accepted that cell face.
Now that we have the cell towers accepted we need to be able to know who is making the wireless 9-1-1 call and where the caller is calling from. When a cellular call is made the cell face picks it up and the computer tells it where to route it. However, when the signal is sent to that Communication Center it cannot find it in their regular database because it is not a wireline call. The call then is re-routed to a special wireless database where it retrieves the caller's information. It is then sent back to the specified Communication Center with the information along with the location of the cell tower that picked up the call. Under Phase I, that is all the information the dispatcher will have so they will know that the caller is somewhere within that cell face's 120 degree area. The dispatcher must then by talking to the caller determine where they are located. If the call is within their jurisdiction they will handle it but if the caller is in the neighboring community the call will be transferred to them.
Under Phase II the technology is more advanced. Receiving the call works the same way but by different means the cell towers will be able to locate the caller at a certain longitude and latitude point. This information is sent to the proper Communication Center along with the caller's information and their position is pinpointed within a certain range on a computer generated map.
Is Wireless 9-1-1 Available Everywhere?
Wireless 911 is not available in all locations. Each 911 dispatch center must request that service providers supply them with the capabilities to track Wireless 911 calls. But, before this can happen there must be a way to pay for this service. Here in Illinois there is such a law which assesses a $0.75 surcharge to each wireless customer. Two-thirds of this money will be distributed to the individual 9-1-1 centers throughout the state to help pay for the costs of upgrading to and maintaining Wireless 9-1-1 equipment. One-third will be distributed to the wireless carriers to defray their costs for providing the service.
As of this time there are seven wireless carriers offering service in our general area;
AT&T, Cingular (now joined under the Cingular name), Nextel, U.S. Cellular (formerly PrimeCo), Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile (formerly Voicestream).
The Harwood Heights Communication Center is now receiving Phase II Wireless calls from all of these carriers.
Phases of Wireless 9-1-1
Wireless 911 will be phased in in two steps. In 1996 the Federal Communications Commission issued a report requiring wireless carriers to provide Wireless 911 to their subscribers. Phase I had to be available by September 11, 2001. This phase called for the wireless providers to be able to supply a cellular phone callback number and the cell sector where the call originated. Phase II was to be in place by October 1, 2001 and would include the requirements of Phase I as well as the ability to locate the cellular phone within specific parameters. The public should be aware that many of the wireless carriers have applied for, and received extensions to the Phase II deadline date. Some Wireless Carriers who are not ready to send Phase 1 wireless calls are sending what is known as Phase 0. Phase 0 means that when a person dials 911 on their cell phone the call will be routed to the designated Communications Center on a 10 digit non 911 line (we receive all Phase 1 calls from the carriers we accepted). The Communications Center answering the call will not have the location of where the caller is calling from but the caller will at least be able to communicate with emergency personnel in their general area.
The facts about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) & 9-1-1 Emergency Calls are not what you may think! You may not be as safe as you think. Demand accurate answers!
Throughout the years we all have grown very comfortable in knowing that if we dial 9-1-1 help will be on the way. We have learned that when 9-1-1 is dialed the police and emergency medical personnel will know where we are even if we cannot communicate. There is something so safe and comforting about that reliable home wireline phone.
Then, as it should, progress came and gave us the ability to call 9-1-1 from a cellular phone. Today with the proper technology in place we have the ability to locate a caller within yards of their actual position. We can have the ability to receive the cell phone’s call back number and even plot the caller’s location on a map. It took years to achieve these advances but with research, development and regulation it has become possible.
As with time, progress marches on and there is now a new way to communicate via a telephone and that is by using what is known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). If you have high-speed or broadband Internet access, VoIP allows the user the ability to make inexpensive telephone calls. On the surface VoIP appears to be a way for businesses and individuals to save money on their phone bills. But at what cost to their personal safety?
Currently VoIP is not regulated by any governmental entity like standard and cellular 9-1-1 systems are. They are not subject to fees or surcharges that help pay for 9-1-1 equipment and most disturbing of all when you dial 9-1-1 using VoIP you most likely will not be routed to a 9-1-1 center in the same manner as the typical 9-1-1 calls. You may get a recording saying that your VoIP phone is not 9-1-1 compatible, you may not be routed to the appropriate 9-1-1 center and information on your location, called Automated Location Information (ALI) may not be available. Your call may not be handled on a dedicated 9-1-1 trunk line as with wireline and cellular phones. In many cases dialing 9-1-1 from a VoIP phone will be the same as dialing a 10-digit non-emergency number. You would have to be physically able to tell the call taker where to send help and possibly even identify your own emergency providers.
While the Internet VoIP industry is participating in setting voluntary practices toward provision of enhanced 9-1-1 service, it is just that - voluntary. Consistency and reliability on behalf of all Internet VoIP providers will be vital to the delivery of any 9-1-1 emergency response.
The technology behind VoIP known as IP is the way of the future. It allows not only voice to be sent but also images such as photos and videos. This will be of great value to 9-1-1 centers and we in the 9-1-1 industry must move forward to meet this progress. Until then VoIP providers and the 9-1-1 industry must work together to make VoIP work with the current 9-1-1 systems in place.
The Harwood Heights Police Department urges anyone considering the purchase of VoIP to thoroughly investigate the company and its ability to provide E9-1-1 service prior to making any purchase. Ask exactly how their 9-1-1 call will be handled. Don’t accept the answer “You can reach the police or emergency services when you dial 9-1-1 .” The question is how will the call reach the police or emergency services and which one will I reach? Will they know my location without having to tell them?
Be an informed consumer. Ask questions, demand answers and please do not let saving a few dollars put your safety and peace of mind at risk.
For more information on VoIP and how it relates to 9-1-1 please look at this site; 9-1-1 & VoIP
Each month the number of 9-1-1 calls that come into our Communications Center will be shown here. Additionally the number of non-emergency calls will also be shown. This figure will include calls of a non-emergency nature, as well as calls requesting information, to answer questions, and for all other police related matters. The average length of time to answer a 9-1-1 call is also indicated.
About 50% of all wireless 911 calls that we receive are those that are classified as "Dialed In Error." Most of these are caused by a one button 911 activation that is programmed into most cellular phones (usually the "9" key. People activate this feature by sitting on their phone or having the activation button hit while in a purse or the person's pocket. Handling these accidentally dialed calls takes dispatchers away from other duties they must perform. Please be careful with your phone so you do not accidentally activate this feature.
Wireless 9-1-1 Calls 2,947
Total 9-1-1 Calls: 4,428
Total Calls for Service (9-1-1 and other calls for service): 54,530